Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's Getting Cold

It is currently 29 degrees as I type this...
I woke up this morning, jumped in the shower, made coffee, caught up on Twitter and left the house in a hurry, just like any other morning. But this morning was different. This is what I first saw as I walked through my door:

Snow-capped veggie mounds
I stood in disbelief, jogging my memory trying to remember what this white stuff was. It's been about three years since I have experienced a winter, bouncing around the world (and between hemispheres), working with the Peace Corps in the Philippines and moving to Phoenix after my Peace Corps service. But winter seems to be making up for lost time and is creeping here in Yecheon with a vengeance. I somehow must have spited the winter gods and, as the Spanish proverb goes, revenge is a dish best served cold.
I keep telling myself that I'll get used to the season, having lived in Minnesota for 8 years but my "snow legs" just aren't what they used to be. But the living situation here in Korea is a little different than the islands and pockets of warmth one finds throughout Minneapolis and Saint Cloud.
Let's start with my apartment, heated by hot water pipes running through the floor. Convection floor heating is common throughout the living quarters in Korea. It is awesome and I have noticed vast improvements with my hot-air-related sinus issues. There is a small digital control center with which I dial in the desired temperature and the apartment is gradually heated and my feet stay nice and toasty.
Leaving the apartment is a completely different ball game. Indoor spaces, most of all public spaces, are generally not heated save an electric space heater. People huddle over the heaters, vying for any available space around it at bus stations, train stations and some restaurants.
The teachers' office at my school is heated by two massive electric heaters and the office stays quite warm. Leaving the office is a completely different story, however. The hallways remain quite cold and, more often than not, the windows in the hallways remain open for some inexplicable reason. Students wear full winter garb around school and in the classroom, doing their best to stay warm throughout the school day. In the language lab, we have a large heater such as the one in the teachers' office pictured to the right, that students encircle as if in a rugby huddle before class begins. But there is no place where heat has been more necessary that in the bathroom. The school bathroom is in a separated building with a sliding door and windows which have for the most part remained open, which I suppose is a mixed blessing. With icicle fairies dancing in my head and my bladder filling with the morning coffee, I was waging costs/benefits of racing out to the bathroom. But to my surprise, there was a space heater next to my favorite urinal and the windows had been shut! I just hope this situation stays consistant until I once again can sport shorts and flip flops.
And for your smug pleasure (if you happen to be in warmer climes), a photo taken this morning of a bush and statue just outside of the teachers office in which I am currently sitting.